Thermoformer / vacuum former / patternmaker


Really cool laser project from Instructables:


I’ve seen a few versions of this, but never with the heating element built in. Awesome find!


Thanks for this! I bet I’ll find some uses!


Suck it and see!

is hilarious.


Yet another thing to add to my “Projects” notebook in Evernote!


Tools for make another tools, cool!


That is rad!!


O that is good. Now i just need my 3d printer to get here!

but seriously, thats a cool merger of tech.


A quick note on making these… it helps get a better seal if you use a box that is raised up a little, so that when you pull down the plastic from above, the chassis that holds the plastic is below the box with the holes in the top. This makes the plastic wrap over the edge a bit to prevent air leakage, and gives a good hold. Try to use a router or other similar method to round out the edge of the box.


Yeah. I saw that one too. My son has been telling me that I need to get one. So when this Instructables came up, I told my son about it, and he was all in. Too bad we have to wait for the Glowforge.

Soon…very soon…


Awesome project but I got a chuckle out of this step:

“Cut aluminum plates to the proper dimensions so that the whole box is layered with aluminum. This ensures reflection of the heat and that the wood catches fire”

It isn’t a hacker project if it doesn’t catch fire. :smiley:


It is really cool, and well thought out, but what application does it have? Sorry, I’m trying to be polite, I just don’t get it’s use. Molds for chocolate maybe?


It’s the same type of machine I used to make the visor for my helmet.

Larger bed ones can make storm trooper armor, visors, easy storage solution for tools, container inserts for wooden containers you make, etc etc. lots of cool things you can do with a vacuuformer


Funny, one of my industry magazines just had an article about thermoformed products (digital version of the article here). I read it shortly after seeing the OP and watching the instructable. There are a huge number of things made with thermoforming, a lot of them things that I have seen for a long time and never really thought about the method of fabrication.
Combined with modern flexible UV inks, that are printed flat but still conform to the thermoforming of the substrate without cracking or distorting, all sorts of products can be made. Promotional/advertising items, point-of-sale displays, containers of all sorts, entire consumer products.



car-top storage box

Hunting stand


OK, now I need to plan for a new machine after my glowforge, CNC, thickness sander, downdraft table, improved dust collector…


Evidently all the cool makers have them. They seem to be all over, but don’t get the sqeee factor that a 3D printer or laser cutter get. This makes the third time today I got dinged by vacuum forming in three different places on line. Hmmm. Wheels churning.


A lot of the thermoformed products are one-time-use things that are recycled or thrown away. That’s not particularly glamorous. I think that to make cool stuff you still need some kind of modeling/sculpting/form-building skills, and to make really cool stuff (ie the helmet from @takitus, and other stuff that makes people say ‘how did you do that?’) involves using a thermoform alongside other methods and materials.


I saw a project at the MakerFaire on Orlando to build one. I should have been building while waiting for my Glowforge.


So on my list (I never should have gotten rid of the one we had as a kid). Also: one of the crowdfunded projects I backed that never delivered…

I have to admit I would prefer metal all round, but this is sweet. Also, I keep being reminded of how useful a laser cutter will be when drilling zillions of accurately located holes.


That’s because the makers make their plugs on lasers and with 3d printers, and then go mass produce them either with silicone moulds or vacuum forms. :slight_smile:

The logic goes: I’m not going to sell 50+hour prints for decent prices, so I better find a way to replicate it cheaply and more effectively. Especially considering I’m on the cheap end at charging $0.25/minute + $0.25/gram of plastic for just the printing.


I have a decent one at work, love it! can’t wait to make this one at home!
thanks for sharing, bookmarked!